What is a QMS? Deliver more value in 2023



There are many acronyms in the business world, most of them are TLAs (Three letter acronyms) like QMS.

In this post, I will try to clarify the purpose of a QMS, and break down its structure in a friendly manner so we can think of potential ways its implementation could benefit our business.

The structure of a QMS

So, what is a QMS then? 

QMS stands for Quality Management System, it refers to the well-structured set of policies, procedures, processes, and instructions that help companies deliver value to their clients through their vision.

Think of it as the system that empowers us to do what we do best, minimizing the risk that something might go wrong.

It structures our business in a way that helps everybody understand what they need to do, why they need to do it, and how they need to do it.

The previous statement applies to anybody in the business. If a senior manager is in charge of defining the strategy of a department, they need to abide by the QMS in place. Similarly, our executives or operators need to follow the rules or the instructions set to complete their jobs.

Have a look at the diagram below to see how the blocks cascade down:

Graphical Structure of a QMS

Let’s break down the different elements to ensure it’s clear what each level defines.


A policy is a high-level statement that gives direction to the company.

They are the “why” in our equation, giving purpose and setting the standards to achieve.

Think of policies as the set of core values that allow our business to deliver its vision and mission. For this same reason, we will very rarely see a policy being revised. That would mean the core of the business is changing.

They are championed by a member of the senior management team who is responsible for the implementation, maintenance, and compliance with that policy.

Imagine we run a digital marketing business, one of our policies might read like this:

Transformero digital is committed to delivering the highest value to its clients.

To achieve this objective we will keep up with the latest technologies and revise the way we operate continuously.

Simple right? A company might have policies of all sorts, depending on whether or not we are in an industry where standards like ISO 9001 are applicable, we might want to check what is required to achieve the standards, so we can make sure we cover all the policies required to achieve the certification.


Processes follow the requirements or goals defined by the policy. They define the path to achieving that goal.

They are the “how” we are going to deliver our goal.

In any given policy, many processes might be required to achieve the policy’s vision, that’s why at this stage we remain at a high-level view of the company.

If policies are championed by a member of the senior management team, procedures also need owners to ensure compliance. Normally, heads of departments or mid-management (depending on the size of the organization) will be process owners.

Processes flow from policy to policy, they feed each other, and they are constantly being revised to minimize idle times, remove waste and improve the way a business operates.

Following the policy we established for transformero digital, we could visualize the processes required to achieve our defined goal below:

Value delivery process flow

This is a simplified example of a process flow, but the aim should always be to have as few steps as possible.


Once we reach the procedural level it’s when we start looking at the little details in each step of the process.

Procedures are the “what”. They explain what the step needs to achieve within the process.

The format is variable, it could be an internal form, a digital input, a matrix, etc… This will be defined by the group of stakeholders that will participate in this step.

It is really important when defining the procedural level, to engage with all stakeholders to ensure it suits their needs.

I have seen companies work well even when using highly manual procedures, although, in the technology era, it’s always preferable to minimize manual inputs if possible to prevent mistakes.

Let’s have a look at a step from the previous example. A simplified cost/benefit analysis evaluation from our previous process:

Cost benefit analysis table

In this example, we have looked at a simple form that would look at the little detail of the different things required to implement a new tool for our business.

This kind of detail is required to make a decision, this decision will impact whether or not we will be able to hit the goal set by the process and the policy.


Instructions are the bottom tier of our system.

They are clear and concise step-by-step guides on how to fill a document, perform a task, etc…

We might be thinking they are redundant, or a waste of time, but if we are upskilling our workforce as we should do, every step of the process should be documented. 

If every step is documented, training becomes way easier. It’s also a reminder for other members of the team on how to execute a task if the last time they did it was a while ago.

As I mentioned in another post, training is part of the “cost of quality” and it’s always in our favor to take this cost proactively.

Following up on our cost analysis, an instruction might look like this:

Example of instructions based on Cost benefit analysis

Simple 4 step instruction to carry out cost/benefit analysis:

  1. Identify the technology to be assessed.
  2. Specify the running costs and any implementation costs necessary for the project.
  3. Specify the savings or benefits. They could be financial or time savings.
  4. Utilize the formula to analyze the payback in years.

Benefits of implementing a QMS in our business

Quality management systems are mandatory for any business looking to be ISO 9001 accredited, this might be something we desire or not.

But regardless of the industry we are in, we could highly benefit from implementing this approach.

The 3 main benefits are listed below.


When everything is organized and everybody is aware of what’s required, things are easier. Defects or issues are easier to detect and study.

By structuring the process to achieve our goals, we are actively looking to make things as efficient as possible, simplifying the steps required to get to that goal. The fewer steps we need to take the lower the cost.

When the steps are defined, getting there is only a matter of time, eliminating frustration along the way and improving morale.

Communication improves because the steps are clear, resolving issues becomes easier, and teamwork is encouraged and rewarded.

The requirements from customers are easier to lay down and review, minimizing waste and increasing the value provided.


Structuring the company and breaking down the roles and responsibilities of each individual allows us to remove indecision and frustration.

If we know what we need to do, we can focus on the tasks adding the highest value. Owning our role allows us to become subject matter experts in that area, helping determine areas for improvement.

If we know what we can improve then we can define the continuous improvement cycle or, even better, if we already have one, we could feed it into it. Increasing, iteration after iteration, the value we provide as we improve.

A useful tool to understand areas of improvement is value-stream mapping, which we will cover in a different article.

Continuous improvement is a never-ending cycle, which aims to clarify and simplify to deliver more for less.


When everything is organized the vision is clear, the mission is defined and we can define who is going to do what and how to take us there.

Flow chart of how to accomplish your mission

Structure gives us a sense of control, there are no surprises so we just need to prioritize and execute. 

Controlled processes allow us to be consistent with our product or services, leading to high-quality results and improving our reputation.

More reputation means more clients, more clients mean more opportunities to deliver value, and more value means more profit for our company.

The culture of continuous improvement revolves around iterations of trial and error and commitment to deliver more for less.

This culture needs to be cascaded down by senior management and their leadership needs to be a walking example of process execution.

Before you go…

We have answered the question “What is a QMS?”. The Quality Management System (QMS) is the set of well-organized policies, processes, procedures, and instructions defining how a company is going to achieve its mission and vision.

  • Policies are our high-level statements defining what the goals are.
  • Processes are the roadmaps defining how we are going to get there.
  • Procedures are what need to happen in each step of the process to deliver the goal.
  • Instructions are the lists or steps that explain and clarify the little details required to execute a procedure.

There are many benefits to implementing a QMS, and this is irrelevant to the industry we work in. The main 3 benefits are:

  • Simplification: The structure and organization given by the QMS simplify the steps required to achieve the goal. The simpler the steps the lower the risk of making mistakes.
  • Clarification: The QMS clarifies the roles and responsibilities of each individual, when everybody knows what they need to do, we can focus on the task ahead, minimizing waste and delivering more value.
  • Control: Structuring the way to accomplish the vision set for the company allows us to feel in control of our destiny. It allows us to deliver consistent products and processes cutting waste and costs which means higher profitability.

If you have managed to get to this point, well done to you! Do you think you will be implementing some of the things present here? Let me know if you do!

If you would like more information, you might want to read What is quality in business terms? Where I talk about the impact of quality in any business.

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